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Fox4 scores big first and CBS11 has major moral "victory" in D-FW's May "sweeps" newscast ratings

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Veteran anchors Clarice Tinsley of Fox4 and Karen Borta of CBS11.

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Two stations made ratings history for themselves, both at the expense of the same competitor, in final results for D-FW’s May “sweeps” newscast competitions.

For the first time since the July 1995 switchover from CBS affiliation, Fox4 topped the 10 p.m. field in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic (main advertiser target audience for news programming). The margin of victory was exceedingly slim over Gannett8, with three decimal points needed to break a first-place tie.

We’ve been using the three decimal system throughout our “sweeps” ratings reports to determine which station actually had the most viewers. In this case, Fox4 ended with a 2.739 rating (81,168 viewers in the 25-to-54 measurement) while Gannett8 had a 2.736 rating (81,079 viewers).

In the 6 a.m. competitions, CBS11 moved out of fourth place for the first time in its history by ranking third among 25-to-54-year-olds. The victim again was Gannett8, with CBS11 prevailing by a score of 25,693 viewers to 23,559.

In the four major four-way competitions at 6 a.m. and 5, 6 and 10 p.m., Fox4 had the most wins with four in the total viewers and 25-to-54 measurements. NBC5 logged two first-place finishes and Gannett8 and CBS11 had one apiece.

The “sweeps” sweeps came at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., with Fox4 and NBC5 respectively winning both ratings battles. Gannett8 kept its 10 p.m. championship in total viewers after also topping the field in May 2014. CBS11 vaulted ahead of NBC5 to win at 6 p.m. in total viewers.

Also of note: Fox4’s 9 p.m. local newscast, squaring off against network entertainment programming on ABC, CBS and NBC, had more total viewers than any of them while also winning by a more comfortable margin with 18-to-49-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for entertainment programming). The ongoing inclement weather didn’t hurt, with all of the local newscasts going super weather-centric down the homestretch of the “sweeps.” Still, this is quite an achievement, even if bad weather invariably means more viewers.

Here are the complete May 2015 sweeps results in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. Audience gains or losses from May 2014 are in parentheses. Source: Nielsen Media Research.

10 P.M.

Total Viewers
Gannett8 -- 209,638 (plus 35,159)
CBS11 -- 180,975 (plus 19,989)
NBC5 -- 168,143 (plus 25,052)
Fox4 -- 145,059 (plus 21,354)

Fox4 -- 81,168 (plus 12,674)
Gannett8 -- 81,079 (plus 9,081)
NBC5 -- 69,936 (plus 1,899)
CBS11 -- 40,154 (plus 3,591)

Comments: Consider this. In May 2014, NBC5 was the only station to show year-to-year audience gains. This time around, all four stations were up in both ratings measurements. Why? The weather. It’s still a viewer magnet, which is why local forecasters have replaced news anchors as go-to MVPs on many a night. Not that it has to rain or blow very hard to get them down to their shirtsleeves. A shower and a wind gust in Palo Pinto will do just fine.

Fox4’s 10 p.m. news is solo-anchored by the dean of D-FW news anchors, Clarice Tinsley. She long has vowed to stay on the air forever and a day. The station’s first-ever win at this hour among 25-to-54-year-olds certainly won’t hurt her standing. But in reality, meteorologist Dan Henry and the station’s reporters in the field were the principal playmakers during May’s many stormy nights.

Fox4’s 10 p.m. news also was aided by the lead-in power of the station’s 9 p.m. newscast, which particularly excelled among 18-to-49-year-olds and 25-to-54-year-olds. In contrast, the 9 to 10 p.m. CBS network programming ran fourth in both of those key demographics.

Fox4 still has a problem in the total viewers realm, where it ran a distant last despite gaining more than 21,000 viewers from last May. Gannett8’s last reliable port in the storm is its 10 p.m. news, which won comfortably in total viewers and lost by a sub-tiny margin in the 25-to-54 measurement.

CBS11 continues to be all but comatose among 25-to-54-year-olds, where its total was less than half the hauls of both Fox4 and Gannett8.

6 A.M.

Total Viewers
Fox4 -- 103,076 (minus 19,563)
NBC5 -- 88,849 (minus 22,357)
Gannett8 -- 66,881 (minus 14,571)
CBS11 -- 55,374 (minus 6,265)

Fox4 -- 56,482 (minus 20,544)
NBC5 -- 36,717 (minus 14,877)
CBS11 -- 25,693 (plus 2,384)
Gannett8 -- 23,559 (minus 14,801)

Comments: Once a prime growth area, the 6 a.m. news numbers took an overall major hit, with only CBS11 registering any year-to-year audience gain while Fox4 bled viewers in both measurements while still managing to win by comfy margins.

CBS11’s slow rise in the 25-to-54 demographic began kicking in when former longtime P.M. anchor Karen Borta joined the early shift in January. She and meteorologist Scott Padgett have been the only constants this year, with a new male co-anchor and younger blonde traffic reporter due to arrive in early June.

Gannett8, which bills its early A.M. news as “The Official Show of Morning People,” instead laid an ostrich-sized breakfast egg with the coveted 25-to-54-year-old audience. Long dormant CBS11 ran better than last in the mornings for the first time in the station’s history by outdrawing Gannett8 in this measurement. So while CBS11 nonetheless continues to shuffle its deck, Gannett8 must decide whether a different mix and approach are needed when the new TV season begins in September. If this wasn’t a wake-up call, then nothing will be.

6 P.M.

Total Viewers
CBS11 -- 161,518 (plus 33,482)
NBC5 -- 143,385 (minus 3,967)
Gannett8 -- 141,781 (plus 25,959)
Fox4 -- 125,253 (plus 7,441)

Fox4 -- 53,845 (minus 938)
NBC5 -- 49,459 (plus 1,775)
Gannett8 -- 40,243 (minus 2,441)
CBS11 -- 30,938 (plus 7,264)

Comments: Fox4 and CBS11 shared teeter totter rides by finishing first in one measurement and last in the other. But CBS11 made the best overall year-to-year improvements in both barometers while dethroning last May’s total viewers champ, NBC5.

5 P.M.

Total Viewers
NBC5 -- 141,154 (plus 8,573)
Fox4 -- 116,815 (minus 1,209)
Gannett8 -- 111,096 (plus 24,531)
CBS11 -- 102,867 (minus 1,096)

NBC5 -- 49,459 (plus 14,542)
Fox4 -- 43,503 (minus 1,865)
Gannett8 -- 29,667 (plus 2,976)
CBS11 -- 23,352 (plus 896)

Comments: NBC5 has the clear bragging rights here, retaining its total viewers crown from last May while dethroning Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds. Although finishing third in both competitions, Gannett8 improved its standing with year-to-year gains. Fox4 in contrast was the only station to lose viewers in each measurement, but the declines were minimal.


***NBC5’s 4 p.m. newscast ran first in both ratings measurements in a three-way battle with Gannett8 and CBS11. The runners-up in the news division were CBS11 in total viewers and Gannett8 among 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4, which offers a double dose of Judge Judy from 4 to 5 p.m., ran second in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, beating the newscasts on Gannett8 and CBS11.

***Fox4’s 9 p.m. local newscast bludgeoned CW33’s anchor-less NewsFix at that hour. In total viewers the score was 186,624 to 15,901. Among 25-to-54-year-olds, Fox4 had 85,405 viewers to NewsFix’s 9,661.

***Wheel of Fortune kept rolling at 6:30 p.m. on CBS11, drawing twice as many total viewers (258,038) as any of the three competing entertainment rag mags while also winning by lesser margins with both 25-to-54-year-olds and 18-to-49-year-olds. Gannett8, then owned by Belo, is still paying for willingly coughing up Wheel a decade ago in order to draw a younger audience with Entertainment Tonight. In the May “sweeps” ratings, ET ran fourth in its time period with both 18-to-49-year-olds and 25-to-54-year-olds.

***The NBC Nightly News without Brian Williams and with Lester Holt won in total viewers at 5:30 p.m. opposite ABC’s World News, CBS’ Evening News and Fox4’s local news. It was the same story with 25-to-54-year-olds.

***Fox4’s 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its homegrown Good Day likewise won a doubleheader, beating the three network morning shows in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds.

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